Johannesburg — The ongoing truck drivers' strike is resulting in losses by suppliers of fresh produce and driving up prices, Agri SA said on Tuesday.
"Not only does it impact on essential daily provision of products to consumers but, unlike non-perishable products, involves direct losses," Agri SA president Johannes Möller said in a statement.
He said fresh produce could only be kept in storage for a limited of time before it spoiled.
"This will not only impact negatively on the financial position of producers, employees on farms and rural economies, but also on urban consumers who will have to pay higher prices due to the shortages."
The strike would affect South Africa's agricultural export market, as fresh produce suppliers could not get their products to foreign customers before they spoiled.
"Needless to add, foreign buyers, especially of fresh produce, will not tolerate poorer quality or inadequate provision as a result of local strikes, especially those that impact on harbour facilities," Möller said.
The SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) and Transnet had said the union would embark on a one-day strike for port and rail workers if the dispute involving truck drivers had not ended.
Möller suggested agricultural exporters had the opportunity to take advantage of a weakened rand if they were able to get their products out in a timely manner.
He said trucks transporting agricultural products had been affected by the strike. Farmers had stopped delivering sugar cane after shots were fired at trucks at a sugar mill in Underberg.
Trucks carrying vegetables had also been targeted in the Vaal Triangle.
Möller said the agriculture industry would have to consider whether liability for its losses could be reclaimed in some way.
"It cannot simply be written off for the account of a democratic right," Möller said.
Unions were back in negotiations with employers on Tuesday. Satawu wanted a 12 percent increase, but indicated a willingness to drop to 10 percent.
The Road Freight Employers' Association said it had already offered a double-digit increase last week, but Satawu rejected it, saying it only amounted to nine percent.
The strike began on September 24 and had left several trucks destroyed, people injured and, as of Tuesday morning, resulted in at least one fatality.